A BISHOP in the Holy Land has called for prayers for peace as tensions â€“ and acts of violence â€“ increase ahead of the Palestinian Authorityâ€™s bid for recognition by the UN.
The message of prayer from Bishop William Shomali â€“ Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem and Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate for Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories â€“ was relayed to staff of Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, during a fact-finding trip to the Holy Land.
Bishop Shomali said: â€œThe Lord told us to pray for peace. Jerusalem will attain peace through the power of God, and not merely through the acts of politicians.â€
The bishop said prayer was essential as people are yearning for peace and a better life after decades of violent conflict.
Further clashes in the West Bank are feared next week as the Palestinian Authority seeks to upgrade its current UN status as an observer without voting rights to full member.
In the early hours of this morning (Thursday, 15th September), three cars were set alight in Beit Furik, just outside Nablus.
According to news agency Reuters, Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib reported an escalation in attacks on Palestinian villages in the West Bank by Israeli settlers.
Mr Khatib said that within the last two weeks there have been several incidents most days â€“ including attacks on three mosques.
It was only confirmed today (15th September) that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be addressing the UN General Assembly next Friday (23rd September).
In response Israelâ€™s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he will be travelling to New York next week to oppose any move for the Palestinian Authority to be recognised as the UNâ€™s 194th member state.
While many Christians have emigrated abroad because of the problems they face, Bishop Shomali, who comes from Beit Sahour near Bethlehem, described the importance of the faithful remaining in the region.
He said: â€œThe mission and calling of Christians is to remain in the Holy Land and work toward change.
â€œWe want change, but we want peaceful change.â€
The bishop also called for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Israeli aerial attacks on Gaza began last month after the Popular Resistance Committee attacked a bus carrying Israeli soldiers, killing 14 people.
The bishop went on to stress the importance of visitors to Jerusalem and encouraged Christians to visit the region.
Bishop Shomali said: â€œThe Holy Land needs you, and you need the Holy Land.â€
According to the bishop, pilgrimage can help Christians renew their own lives and obtain deeper insights into the holy scriptures.
Following a successful pilgrimage to the region last year, Aid to the Church in Need (UK) will be organising another trip for its benefactors next year.
The 61-year-old bishop said: â€œThe Holy Land needs peace, the Holy Land needs you.â€
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is supporting numerous pastoral projects in Israel, the Palestinian territories and the Gaza Strip.
ACN has been supporting the Patriarchatesâ€™ pastoral work in all three areas for the last three years, which aims at supporting Christians and promoting reconciliation.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity â€“ helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named â€œAn outstanding Apostle of Charityâ€, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiativeâ€™s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Needâ€™s Childâ€™s Bible â€“ God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACNâ€™s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charityâ€™s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.